John Noble spills behind-the-scenes secrets about tonight's Fringe

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Dec 14, 2012

Actor John Noble is back in action on tonight's Fringe for its big midseason launch on Fox Fridays, and he's thrilled that one of his personal "heroes," Christopher Lloyd, is guest-starring in the episode, "The Firefly," at 9 p.m. ET. The two actors chatted with journalists during a conference call yesterday about the episode, working with each other and where Fringe is headed this season.

"When they said that Christopher Lloyd was coming on, it was like a dream come true," said Noble, whose native Australian accent sets his voice apart from that of the American character, Dr. Walter Bishop, we know on Fringe. "And of course, to have him play the musician from 'Violet Sedan Chair,' which was this creation, made it even more interesting. We had an amazing time together."

The episode explores what happens when Walter gets a blast from the past as he befriends his musical hero, Roscoe Joyce (Lloyd)–the keyboardist of his favorite 1970s band, "Violet Sedan Chair"–and realizes their lives have overlapped in strange and unexpected ways even though they've never met before.

"Probably the best fun that I've had [on Fringe] was doing the stuff with Chris Lloyd, because it was two crazy old guys just trying desperately to communicate with each other," said Noble. "We had a lot of laughs. There was a common thread of trying to find the music again, because Chris' character had forgotten how to play the piano, so we go through this journey of bringing the music back to him, and [it's a] thrill to Walter. This happens all the way through this very complicated episode."

"The two characters we play are so vastly from different worlds, all the way from different worlds," said Lloyd. "And yet I really so much enjoyed, while we were working together, how these two aging souls and their complicated worlds, individually, how there seems to be a common ground. There's a bond developing between these two characters in spite of their differences."

The actor, who has played many eccentric roles, such as Doc Brown in Back to the Future and Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi, said Roscoe is different from any character he's played before during his long career. As the character, "I sort of wake up, in a sense. I've admitted myself to a convalescent home of sorts and to sort of retreat from life. And this parallel universe, so to speak, suddenly comes in very strongly into my life, in a very personal way, and I am at a loss what to make of it, how to deal with it, what exactly is going on. And like I say to John Noble's character when we're in his laboratory, which has all kind of apparatuses, everything, 'What is this all about?' 'Cause I am confused and dismayed and kind of awed by it all. And I feel, for me, the challenge of coming to terms with that and creating that character. His new reality was very exciting. I love the script, and the people I was working with all helped to make it happen."

The other major development in "The Firefly" is the return of the Observers, who've mostly been missing from the season's episodes [although, yes, we know the producers have been sneaking them into the background of shots here and there]. In the episode, one of them makes contact with the Fringe team to rectify a mistake.

"I think the Observers have been that one thing since the beginning of Fringe that have kept it way up there," said Noble. "Who are these strange bald people that appear everywhere? And so to have Michael Cerveris, the principal Observer, back in the 26th episode was fantastic. And he got to do some really fine scenes. I have a wonderful scene with him myself. What we're trying to find out is what the role of these Observers are. Do they stand outside the universe? Do they stand outside both universes? Are they observers, or should they be hands-on? And I think what we've discovered is if they do become hands-on at any stage, then they can wreck the natural order of things. And then they try to correct it. And one of the founding premises of Fringe is that because of the interference of an Observer, we did rupture the two universes. Because one of them interfered initially. So it's really interesting to have them back in trying to repair the damage, trying to put things right. And at the end of the episode, the Observer has the last scene, and he says something incredibly telling, which I'll leave for you to observe. But it just shows the way ahead, and how much danger and drama there is ahead."

And speaking of what lies in Fringe's future, Noble agrees to give us "a little" information. "We can't resist the alternate universe. And, having created it, we have to go back there, because it's this huge conflict. We will go back. The character of Walternate will be developed. I think at this stage he seems just this nasty, cruel man. We'll give you a little bit more. We'll give you a lot more background on what he's like over the course of the season. And we spend a few episodes, some wonderful episodes, back in the alternate universe."

Walter will also evolve in the second half of the season, said Noble."Walter came from a very big fog when we first knew him, and slowly he's put the pieces back together and rebuilt his life, and that's all history. And then he went through the terrible second season of realization that Peter had to know, had to find out. So we did that. We started the third season with this rift between the two men. And we haven't been able to get that back. So that causes a great deal of loneliness and frustration in both of the men. But what's also happened is that Walter's become conscious of the major problems that he faces that he actually thinks he's incapable of solving, because he's been ill, because he's had part of his brain removed. So it's an incredible struggle. He keeps saying, 'I'm not smart enough to do this anymore,' and Nina keeps encouraging him to do it. And through the course of this season, you'll see him finally accept his limitations, but also his strengths, which are more than enough to deal with the situation. It's a beautiful journey of acceptance for Walter, and he goes through all the emotional states to get there. But a gorgeous journey of accepting where he is and then moving forward."

However, there's one thing Noble doesn't want to see Walter do in any real way. "Could you imagine ... seriously, could you imagine a world with Walter running Massive Dynamics? ... I think it's just as well we haven't seen much [of that]. I think it's really very fortunate we've got Nina there. He does go back in there occasionally, and without giving too much away, we just, in fact, shot a scene last night ... a wonderful scene in Massive Dynamics showing just what sort of a CEO Walter is. I can't say more, but it's very, very funny. And he's not the most responsible CEO in the world, so let's hope he doesn't get too much say," he said.

As for Lloyd, working on Fringe was "a little bit of heaven." Although, while he's not complaining, even he isn't quite sure how he ends up being drawn to so many sci-fi projects. "I don't know exactly how I end up with some of these roles. It mystifies me sometimes. But I am a fan of sci-fi. I love being taken into a strange world. And when it's done with imagination and credibility, I love being taken on that trip in a sci-fi film. I always have. When a good sci-fi film comes out, I go see it, and I sit down and I'm looking forward to a great ride of imagination. I've always been a fan in that respect."

Here's a preview of what's coming up on Fringe:

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